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‘Frankenstorm’ Sandy Becomes Campaigns’ October Surprise

President Obama; photo by Dennis Brack/Pool via Getty Images

President Obama listens to a briefing on Hurricane Sandy at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. Photo by Dennis Brack/Pool via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

All politics is local. Especially when swing states are in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

President Obama began his day in Orlando, Fla., but will return to the White House to monitor what’s been dubbed a monster storm. Former President Clinton will attend the planned rally in the Sunshine State instead, but expect the campaigns to push their activities west into the Rust Belt for the rest of the week as the East Coast braces for, endures and cleans up after the hurricane.

Over the weekend Mitt Romney scrapped his planned events in Virginia.

The campaign calculus, of course, is that no one wants to divert the many safety and law enforcement resources required for candidates’ rallies away from anyone who needs them.

With the response to Hurricane Katrina still casting a shadow over the political world, the president’s team has carefully made sure he’s as plugged in and responsive to Sandy as can be.

Making a stop at FEMA’s headquarters over the weekend, Mr. Obama sounded a note of caution:

This is a serious and big storm. And my first message is to all the people across the Eastern seaboard, mid-Atlantic, going north, that you need to take this very seriously and follow the instructions of your state and local officials, because they are going to be providing you with the best advice in terms of how to deal with this storm over the coming days.

Digital First Media’s Ryan Beckwith details the five ways Hurricane Sandy could impact the election, while the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza finds the storm has frozen politics in place.

The impending landfall sent more people to early voting locations up and down the East Coast. Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell annoucned that some of the commonwealth’s polling places may have expanded hours after the storm. In Maryland, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley cancelled early voting on Monday.

The high winds and heavy rainfall have distracted the press — and many voters — from the final eight days of the campaign. Even Twitter has offered a Romney hurricane mashup with the mock hashtag #MittsStormTips.

But both teams are still working hard in the battleground states.

Newly released Ohio polls found different results. A CNN survey taken Oct. 23-25 had Mr. Obama leading Romney, 50 percent to 46 percent. While an Ohio Newspapers Organization survey taken Oct. 18-23, before the final debate, but still receiving a lot of attention on the Sunday shows, had the men tied at 49 percent. The most recent survey taken Monday through Thursday last week had Mr. Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 48 percent.

As the two camps battle over newspaper endorsements of questionable influence, Mr. Obama scooped up the backing of the New York Times. Romney won the Des Moines Register’s first Republican endorsement in four decades.

Outlining the nation’s economic challenges ahead, the Register wrote:

Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.

The former governor and business executive has a strong record of achievement in both the private and the public sectors. He was an accomplished governor in a liberal state. He founded and ran a successful business that turned around failing companies. He successfully managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The Times’ Obama endorsement included a scathing Romney critique.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.


The NewsHour and public media partners are exploring the states and races at the top of the ticket and down the ballot in a new Battleground Dispatches series. Airing Tuesday night was the fourth piece, focusing on how the issues of the auto bailout and gas leases are playing in the critical state of Ohio.

Special correspondent Todd Zwillich of WNYC spent time in Youngstown, meeting business owners who have been buoyed by the bailout and voters who are cautiously optimistic about the Buckeye State’s economy.

Watch Todd’s report here or below:

Coordinating producer Mike Melia previewed the story here with an interview with Karen Kasler, a public media reporter covering the state. Desk assistant Beth Garbitelli detailed some of the ads running in Ohio here.


On Friday night, Judy Woodruff talked with Mark Shields and David Brooks about the keys to winning this election in the final week of the race.

Mark zeroed in on Ohio:

You can forget the Big Apple and forget big D. and L.A. It is Chillicothe, Zanesville, Steubenville that really is — this is the big casino of this election. I don’t see how either one of them wins without Ohio. I will be very blunt about it.

He pointed out that a few factors have thrown the state for a political loop — particularly, that Ohio’s voters on average are older and whiter than the makeup of most other states.

For many voters, the campaigns are frustratingly one-dimensional, such as using reproductive rights to wedge votes from women, Mark said. David added:

I think both of the candidates are not particularly sincere, especially Mitt Romney. And so they’re not running on things that sort of motivate you to get into public life. They have decided they have got strategies of how to do it, and the candidates are playacting out those strategies….

And I feel like we’re coming to the end of this campaign with the two large questions unanswered, crucial questions. Would Mitt Romney buck the Republican Party at any time if he were elected president? And, secondly, does Barack Obama have sort of a second wind, a second burst of policy creativity?

Watch here or below:

Hari Sreenivasan also chatted with the guys about the sport of politics and the politics of sport in the Doubleheader. Watch that here or below:


The NewsHour’s Kwame Holman talked with Victoria Bassetti, author of “Electoral Dysfunction,” about the new book and PBS documentary that outline pushes for voting reforms and the dawn of tightened voter ID laws. They also highlight quirks of the electoral process, such as how the right to vote isn’t outlined in the Constitution.

Bassetti notes that the United States hasn’t seemed to have perfected the democratic voting process yet, and that it probably shouldn’t be seen as a model for other countries’ electoral processes.

Watch here or below:


Monday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA explains that Cold-War era Russian nuclear warheads now provide uranium used in American power plants.

The program, expected to end in 2013, has recycled 450 metric tons of Russian bomb-grade uranium from dismantled warheads since 1994. It has at times generated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. electricity supply.

Face the Facts has more on this tidbit and provides a fact each day until the election.


  • Hugh Johnson, who leads an investment and advisory firm in Albany, N.Y., speaks with the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown about the finer details of recent economic reports and how they affect politics.
  • Roll Call’s Kate Ackley follows some K Street lobbyists on the Virginia campaign trail.
  • Vice President Biden added to his list of gaffes at a campaign event Saturday in Virginia. He called Tim Kaine, the Democratic Senate candidate, “Tom.”
  • The Las Vegas Sun endorses President Obama, saying it’s unclear what Romney stands for.
  • The New York Times crunches the numbers and finds “160,000 commercials supporting the president have run, compared with 140,000 for Mr. Romney. And the Obama campaign and its supporters have broadcast more ads during the morning news and prime-time periods when television viewership is highest.”
  • Racial prejudice in America has increased since 2008, according to an Associated Press poll.
  • Roll Call calculates that Mr. Obama may have raised about $1 million via text message this cycle.
  • Bloomberg View’s Jeffrey Goldberg alleges that this year’s election, moreso than in past years, has been shaped by race baiting.
  • Substitute all ads you see on the Internet with political messaging, and you’ve got partisan wifi, now available to all.
  • Madonna was booed onstage in New Orleans after she told concertgoers they should vote for Mr. Obama.
  • Christina appeared on NPR’s “On Point” Friday. Listen to it here. She also hosted Sasha Issenberg for a weekend book chat.












All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama is in Washington. Former President Bill Clinton will attend their planned event in Orlando, Fla., at 10 a.m. solo.
  • Mitt Romney speaks at an 11:50 a.m. rally in Avon Lake, Ohio, attends a rally in Davenport, Iowa, with wrestler Dan Gable at 3:25 p.m. and closes his evening in West Allis, Wis., with a rally at 7:40 p.m.
  • Jill Biden speaks at a 1 p.m. event in Colorado Springs and at a 3:45 p.m. event in Fort Collins, Colo.
  • Ann Romney attends an event in Traverse City, Mich., at 1:35 p.m. and one in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 4:10 p.m.
  • Paul Ryan spends his day in Florida. He attends a rally in Jacksonville at 2:05 p.m., one in Melbourne at 5:40 p.m. and one in Lakeland at 8:10 p.m.
  • Michelle Obama speaks at 2:25 p.m. in Iowa City, Iowa, and at 5:35 p.m. in Sioux City.
  • Vice President Biden speaks at an event with Clinton in Youngstown, Ohio, at 3:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

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